Conjunction of the Spheres

Google Plus Circles: Conjunction of the Spheres?

Conjunction of the Spheres Kepler imagined the solar system as a series of nested Pythagorean solids. It was an elegant notion, but we live in a more complicated (Einsteinian) universe. Is the same true of current social networking models?

GooglePlus is dominating my RSS feeds today. My excitement about Circles has faded a little because of articles like this:

Google Plus’ Circles System May Not be Sustainable — ReadWriteWeb

I posted an abridged version of the following in the article’s comments:

Good categorization is an expertise most people lack: “Work” isn’t particularly meaningful, but “Coworkers”, “Headhunters”, and “Professional Acquaintances” are. It’s more work to apply and maintain a richer taxonomy, and I’d imagine even fewer people will get equivalently greater value from such effort in social networking. We’ve been trained away from finding exactly what we want by the search-and-browse approach of unstructured searches like Google, so wading through irrelevancy is a more common skill.

Grouping mechanisms in other social networking systems also have upkeep problems; I suspect most people just don’t bother doing it, and the same will probably be true with GooglePlus. Maybe adding a feature to display circles as Venn diagrams would help data geeks like me.  For most people, public versus private might be just enough categorization to avoid social networking faux pas without making the posting process feel like taking the SAT.

Existing social networks don’t have the concept of categorization on both ends, posting and reading, and I wonder if GooglePlus Circles has the same deficiency because it hides the names of circles I’ve been added to. I’d like to subscribe to (and filter out) people’s circles instead of people themselves to control the noise of their posts about unshared interests; I’d probably disagree with how most of my non-professional acquaintances would categorize me. It doesn’t sound like GooglePlus makes the distinction of subscribing to people’s interests or topics instead of people themselves. Relevancy has to be a two-way street.

Or, perhaps, a four-way intersection.

GooglePlus Venn Diagram
GooglePlus Venn: Relevancy is an Intersection

With all those brainy data geeks at Google, I’m optimistic that they could create a Venn diagram of Circles, Sparks, +1’s, Reader Likes/Shares that could define social graph relevancy in that oh-so-Google statistical way. How many licks would it take to get to the center of that tasty relevancy tootsie-pop?  Lots, probably, but it creates a new kind of payoff that Twitter and Facebook are incapable of delivering.

Hey, Google, are you listening?

On a related note, I tried posting my comment using my Twitter account. Twitter on the web is totally brain-dead about multiple identities, so of course I posted my comment using the wrong account. It’s a perfect example of the mis-post problem I referenced in the preceding post. Then I reposted my comment using Google, and Disqus allowed me to choose from the three Google accounts I’m logged into right now. Google gets the issues of identity and context more than anybody else in the field, so I’m (somewhat) optimistic about GooglePlus.

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